As Tony Bennett watched Maryland play Arizona State last week in the semifinals of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, an intangible quality jumped through the television screen and became very obvious to the Virginia men's basketnall coach.
"There's a chemistry there. They looked terrific the majority of the game I was watching," Bennett said on a teleconference with reporters Monday. "I thought there was a cohesiveness. I thought they looked improved [from last year] in that game with the new personnel. They're really playing together."
What was particularly impressive to Bennett was the fact that the Terps played well despite senior guard Dez Wells not being much of a factor until the very end of the game, when he made a couple of plays to help Maryland beat the Sun Devils.
Now that Wells is out after breaking his right wrist in the championship game victory over then No. 13 Iowa State, Bennett is preparing for a largely different team Wednesday night than the one the Cavaliers faced a year ago.
The teams split their last series as members of the ACC, with the Cavaliers winning in Charlottesville and the Terps winning in College Park in their last regular season ACC game after 61 years before joining the Big Ten.
Former Terps guard Seth Allen, now at Virginia Tech, had 15 points in a 61-53 loss to Virginia and led Maryland with 20 points in a 75-69 overtime win. Wells had 12 points in the loss, 18 in the win.
Even senior forward Evan Smotrycz, whose status for Wednesday was put in jeopardy when he "tweaked" the ankle on the left foot he broke in October, added 13 points and played 39 minutes in the second game despite wrenching his back in the first half.
"Every team is different. It's a new year," Bennett said. "We're a different team than last year, certainly they are and now they don't have Dez. But even when he wasn't clicking, that tells me they played well without him. There are some very good other players there that we played against. We'll have to be ready."